It hit me about 4pm today that although I’ve done a lot of myth debunking on social media and directed people to well supported articles, I haven’t actually expressed my opinion on the EU Referendum.
It was inevitable.
In the UK we’ve had something like 8 years of economic stagnation. Whenever something like that happens there are certain things that history tells us will follow. People will lose faith in the politicians of the day and start looking for answers elsewhere. New movements will spring up saying that they have the answers. The things they say are always the same, we need to break free of regulation, bureaucracy and red tape, we need to empower the individual, the problems are caused by some external entity (usually immigrants) and most of all we need to take our country back and make it great again.
Right now that’s Farage, Trump, Le Penne, Marusik, etc.
These things are not the answers because the sad, soul crushing reality is that there are no answers right now.
Our problems are not caused by our membership of the EU, Boris Johnson said as much in 2013, I’m paraphrasing but basically “the only thing leaving the EU would achieve is to make Britain face up to the fact that its problems are not caused by the EU.”
Our problems are caused by a combination of the poor performance of the global economy and our own mistakes and inadequacies. We have consistently failed to invest in public services and infrastructure. We have failed to properly regulate the financial sector. Time and time again we have put short term gains before the necessary long term strategy. These things and others are the cause of our current malaise, not our EU membership.
I can’t believe it, but I basically agree with what Boris said in 2013 (I disagree on many of the details, BTW).
Leaving the EU will not bring us any significant gain, even in the areas that the Leave campaign are targeting.
If we stay in the Free Trade Area (like Norway and Switzerland) we will have to accept almost all of the EU’s rules, including the free movement of people.
At the moment we’re one of the big 3, with France and Germany we’re the most influential countries in Europe. We’d lose that so we’d effectively lose sovereignty – because at the moment we have some control.
It would also make democracy worse as at the moment we all have a voice through the UK government and through our MEPs. We’d lose that.
I’m sure I needn’t point out that the proposed points system on immigration is highly unlikely to be acceptable to the EU if we remain in the Free Trade Area.
So we’re talking about a substantial divorce from Brussels, that’s the only way we can get any freedom of movement on immigration. Sovereignty and democracy are more complex arguments but neither would be a cavalcade of success. They’re both pretty minor gains if you analyse them in depth (NATO, WTO, IMF, UN, House of Lords, FPTP etc).
The problem with this is that even the Leave campaign recognise that this would hit our economy hard. Unemployment would rise, the welfare bill would rise and the economy would slow down long term. The slower the economy the less money there is flowing around the less the government gets in tax, the less we can afford to pay out in welfare and services. Even a tiny slowing would eclipse the EU membership fee from the government’s budget so what we’re facing here is not investment in services like the NHS, but even more and ever more severe cuts at a time when we really, really don’t need that because half our problems are caused by our failure to invest in the past.
The numbers can only work if we remain in the Free Trade Area which gains us nothing but a tiny bit of pride. It’s pointless.
There’s no quick fix for the situation we’re in, it’s going to be a long hard slog but there will be an upturn. When there is there’ll be more money flowing in the economy so the government will get more in tax and we can afford to put right some of the mistakes of the past.
If we stay we can hold our heads high, we’ll be at the top table of the EU, the largest market in the world, a major player on the world stage. If we leave we seriously risk becoming an ever more irrelevant and isolated sad little island.
I am proud to be from Suffolk, proud to be English, proud to be British. I care about this country and I care about its place in the world, so I will be voting to remain a member of the European Union.
[You will appreciate this is rather a hasty hack of an article, I haven’t really had time to properly reference it and I’ve glossed over a lot of detail that I would have included if I had longer]